I will be starting my holiday shopping soon, and I'd like to purchase toys for my children that are developmentally stimulating. Do you have any suggestions?

Absolutely! There are countless choices available when you visit the toy aisles, and it can be an overwhelming task selecting toys that best support your child's development. As you're shopping, keep the following tips in mind:

The Toy Should Be Developmentally Appropriate

Carefully consider your child's abilities when making toy selections. Be sure that your choices are suitable to your child's skills and interests.

Think Creativity!

The perfect toy allows for pretend play, encourages problem solving, and stimulates your child's imagination. Look for toys that can be used in more than one way. Building blocks and dress up costumes are great options for younger children.

Keep It Simple

Expensive, high tech toys with numerous moving parts do not foster creative thinking, and they will likely break after several play sessions. Of course, if your child is older, he likely has a number of high tech "gadgets" on his list, so just try to strike a balance between those types of items and developmentally stimulating selections. Puzzles and art kits are two of my all time favorites.

Play It Safe

The toy should be age appropriate, so always check the toy's packaging for safety guidelines. For toddlers and small children, avoid magnets and items with small parts and sharp edges.

Have fun and enjoy the holiday season!


Developmental Pro, Anne Zachry

Anne Zachry, Ph.D. is a pediatric occupational therapist, child development specialist and mother of three. She's had articles published on Parenthood.com, Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine online, has written a parenting course for Daily OM, and writes for a variety of regional parenting magazines.

Dr. Zachry's research has been published in national peer-reviewed journals, including The Southern Medical Journal, The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, and The Occupational Therapy Journal of Research, and she's had articles published in her profession's trade magazines, Advance and OT Practice. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, and she has also given numerous presentations to parents and teachers on a variety of topics related to infant and childhood development.

Her websites are Dr. Anne Zachry and Pediatric Occupational Therapy Tips.



I'm getting ready to move my two-year-old son into his older brother's bedroom. He'll be moving from a crib to a bunk bed in the new room (which is not yet set up). Neither child has ever shared a bedroom before. How do you recommend we approach this transition?

This is really multiple transitions all rolled into one. First, your older child will be getting used to having a new bed and a new inhabitant in his room. Your younger son will be transitioning from a crib to a "big kid" bed. And both boys will be introduced to a shared sleeping space. It's a lot for any child (and parent) to handle!

I recommend breaking this big move down into manageable stages:

1. Set up the bunk bed in your older child's room a week or two (or even a month) before moving the younger child in.

This gives the older child time to get used to his new bed and bedroom. Help him set up his sleeping space — perhaps fun new sheets or a new stuffed animal are in order — and make sure he feels comfortable on the top bunk (where I assume he'll be snoozing) before bringing another person into the room. Be sure to congratulate him on the special accomplishment and privilege of sleeping on the top bunk.

2. Look at both kids' sleeping habits and schedules before the move.

Are they in sync? If not, synchronize their sleep routines as much as possible so that they are bedding down at the same time each night. Look at their sleeping preferences, too — does one child prefer using a nightlight, white noise, or a fan at night, while the other doesn't?

Don't wait for a bedtime meltdown to uncover habits that may need adjusting — discuss these issues ahead of time to make any needed compromises.

3. After you set up the new bunk bed but before moving the younger brother in, let him explore the new bed and bedroom.

Tell him this will be his new bed and emphasize the positive, fun aspects of sharing a room with his older brother. If he expresses interest in moving to the new room, go for it.

4. On the big night, allow extra time for bedtime.

Both boys are bound to be excited and will likely need a few extra minutes to relax and drift off. After lights out, I recommend staying near the bedroom door to guide your two-year-old quickly back to bed in case he decides to test his newfound freedom. After a night or two of this routine, he'll get the message and stay in bed. For more information on making shared bedrooms work for young children, see a recent post about shared bedrooms at my blog, The Well Rested Family.


Sleep Pro, Malia Jacobson

Malia Jacobson has been helping tired families sleep since 2007. She is a writer, editor, nationally-published sleep journalist, and author of "Ready, Set, Sleep: 50 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep, So You Can Sleep Too." Her sleep articles reach millions in respected print publications.

Malia's articles have been featured in over 70 news outlets and publications, including ABC News, Women's Health Magazine, Costco Connection Magazine, Seattle's Child Magazine, ParentMap Magazine, Seattle Business Magazine, San Diego Family Magazine, and Cincinnati Family Magazine. She is a contributing writer at Family Time Magazine and Broward Family Life Magazine.

She holds a bachelor's degree in communication and a master's degree in business administration/marketing. When she's not writing, she organizes a popular attachment parenting group in her hometown of Tacoma, Washington, digs in her garden, and explores the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two young daughters.